Living with an alcoholic spouse can be challenging and overwhelming. Whether your partner has just begun abusing alcohol or they’ve been drinking for years, the often-swift decline can be heartbreaking to watch. By educating yourself about alcoholism and adopting a compassionate approach, you can help support your loved one on the path to recovery. In this blog, we’ll discuss seven ways to approach the topic of alcohol abuse with your spouse, strategies for encouraging treatment, and the importance of self-care throughout the process.
1. Understanding Alcoholism
To effectively address your spouse’s alcoholism, it’s crucial to educate yourself about the nature of the disease. Alcoholism is a chronic condition that affects both the physical and mental health of individuals. By recognizing that it’s a physical and mental issue rather than a personal failing, you can approach the topic with empathy and understanding.
Alcohol abuse is more common than you’d think: According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (the most recent survey), 29.5 million people ages 12 and older suffered from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) in the previous year.
2. Choose the Right Moment
Timing is essential when broaching the subject of alcoholism with your spouse. Find a moment when they are relatively calm and sober. Approach the conversation with a caring and non-confrontational tone. Express your concerns honestly and emphasize that you’re speaking out of a true desire to help. Most importantly, don’t push: if your partner becomes defensive, it might not be the right time to discuss the topic.
3. Express Your Feelings
As the spouse of an alcoholic, you may have gone through significant difficulties, but it’s crucial to put your (very justified) anger and sadness aside for a moment and approach your partner with love. Share your own experiences, emotions, and observations related to your spouse’s alcohol consumption. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory and focus on the impact their drinking has on you and your relationship. This approach can help foster open communication and prevent your spouse from becoming defensive.
For example, instead of saying:
“You always miss out on the kids’ soccer games because you’re drinking.”
You can say:
“When you miss the kids’ soccer games, I feel hurt and sad, and I can tell that it impacts the kids, as well. I love you so much, and I want you to be present for the important moments.”
4. Offer Support
Assure your spouse that you are there to support them throughout their journey to recovery. Your partner’s behavior may have caused you challenges, but they’re likely also suffering. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to take the first supportive step—in other words, to be the “bigger person.” Encourage them to talk about their feelings and experiences with alcohol, demonstrating that you are ready to listen without judgment. Offering your unwavering support can help create a safe space for them to consider seeking treatment.
5. Discuss Treatment Options
When discussing treatment, approach the conversation with empathy and without pushing for immediate action. Share information about available treatment options such as therapy, support groups, and rehab programs. Highlight the benefits of professional help and emphasize that seeking treatment is a courageous step towards regaining control of their life.
6. Encourage Self-Reflection
Ask your spouse about howthey feel alcohol is impacting their well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. It’s essential to remember that the decision to pursue treatment must come from within themselves.
7. Take Care of Yourself First
Caring for an alcoholic spouse can be emotionally draining. Remember to prioritize your own well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy, seeking support from friends and family, and considering individual therapy. Taking care of yourself allows you to be a source of strength and support for your spouse.
By approaching the topic of alcohol abuse with love and care, providing information about treatment options, and encouraging self-reflection, you can be a catalyst for change. However, it’s crucial to remember that recovery is a personal journey, and your spouse can only change their behavior if they genuinely want to. Be supportive, but also take care of your own well-being throughout the process. With time, love, and support, your spouse may find the strength and motivation to seek the help they need to overcome alcoholism.
Whether you’re in Southern California or across the country, New Spirit is here to help. We can walk you through treatment options for your partner, verify your insurance, and discuss our programming. For more information, contact us at (424) 317-9319.